|Photo by: Amazon.com|
Key Tracks: “Aberdeen,” “Right Before My Eyes”
When Cage the Elephant came out with the single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” two years ago, they immediately gained a following. The twangy guitar track caused an avalanche of comparisons, from The White Stripes to early Kings of Leon. There was definitely Southern rock heat vibrating from the track, as well as the entirety of the band’s eponymous debut album.
Throw out those comparisons. With Thank You, Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant has morphed its Kentucky-bred classic rock roots into an early ’90s grunge feel. The band manages to pull off its signature big hooks while plunging deeper into the darkness of singer Matt Shultz’s mind. “Never saw my dark side in your eyes / Back and forth bloody fingers painting up the sky,” he sings in “Aberdeen,” the album’s catchiest track.
Even when the songs jump with strong beats, the lyrics underneath remain dark. Throughout most of the album, Shultz is spitting his words with venom not found on the band’s debut. While the band behind him rages with off-color guitars and crashing percussion to match its singer’s fury, a fascinating picture is painted of a group that is facing darkness right before our ears.
With all the album’s anarchic rage, it’s surprising that Thank You, Happy Birthday also features some of Cage the Elephant’s most elegant and reflective tracks. “Right Before My Eyes” starts with quiet power chords that flow into an expansive chorus in which Shultz wonders out loud at the state of the world. It’s not uncommon to hear this group sing about such issues, but in this instance there is definite uncertainty in the band’s sound as if they’re wondering if there is anything they can do to make a change.
There’s no doubt the band has been influenced more by Nirvana and the Pixies on this record. The arrangements are demented and twisted while at the same time calling out for an emotional response. It’s an album to be played when pissed off or contemplative. Or both. Cage the Elephant may have foregone their Southern influences, but on Thank You, Happy Birthday they speak for the confused and angered generation that’s roaming the streets of America.
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